Module code: PSYM138

Module Overview

Module will introduce students to key concepts in public policy development, the theories and practice of risk governance including risk perception, risk management, risk communication and the models of behaviour and social change that inform public policy development and agenda setting. By the end of the course students will develop understanding of the dominant frameworks informing current policy development (risk, intervening for behaviour change); and an awareness of the role of psychological and social sciences in influencing policy and creating impact. 

Module provider


Module Leader

TIMOTIJEVIC Lada (Psychology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 106

Seminar Hours: 22

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • Introduction to policy making: Psychologists are increasingly asked to influence public policy. To do this effectively, it is necessary to develop better understanding of policy processes and the challenges associated with both the development and implementation of policy.

  • Risk: Today, social problems are defined in terms of risk. Policy makers endeavour to identify and tackle the risks associated with different phenomena – e.g. risks to health, risks to our food supply, risks of different technologies to our societies and our life. We will address why risk is important in policy making, how policy makers assess and manage risks and what psychology can contribute to the debate and practice of risk governance. There will be a series of lectures focused on the psychology of risk – risk perception, risk communication and risk behaviour. We will also explore the way in which psychology can study risk managers’ thinking about management of risk.

  • Behaviour change: Psychology has for many years explicitly focused on intervening to achieve positive change. The module will explain the purpose and rationale behind interventions to change behaviour and explain  how we can employ insights from psychological theory to address public policy challenges.

  • Intervention development: In the course of the module students will be given an opportunity to develop practical skills and apply the relevant knowledge  to develop an intervention for behaviour change. The students will work on a topical public policy problem to define an approach to behaviour change.

  • Big data – its role in policy development: We will explore the way in which digital technologies and the emergence of big data analytics has changed the possibilities to understand and intervene in the world. We will critically examine the opportunities and challenges associated with big data for public policy.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework A PROPOSAL (2000 WORDS) 50

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate


The summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • 1-page risk communication poster and a summary of the risk communication strategy (1000 words) - written feedback and mark


  • A research proposal for a behavioural intervention that will address a current public policy problem (2000 words) - written feedback and mark


The formative assessment consists of:

  • Small group sessions/presentations – verbal feedback


Module aims

  • This module aims to provide students with critical awareness of the role of psychological and social science in public policy development. It aims to illustrate the main issues of public policy in practice and demonstrate the role of psychological science and research in influencing policy.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Critically apply theoretical literature on risk perception and behaviour change to a public policy problem. C
002 Critically evaluate the quantity and quality of evidence in psychology that can be used for public policy development. C
003 Demonstrate knowledge of key psychological theories that can inform public policy problem formulation and the way in which psychological research evidence can inform and be used in developing public policy solutions and interventions. K
004 Problem-based decision-making: Develop skills to define a problem and develop solutions to tackle it. T
005 Able to consider the practical impact of psychological research. T
006 Awareness of the broader socio-economic and policy context within which psychological knowledge and research skills can be applied. T
007 Employ relevant research skills to analyzing a public policy problem. P
008 Team work, flexibility, adaptability. P
009 Communication (oral, visual, written). P

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:


Engage students to critically contribute to the current policy issues

To apply their knowledge of psychological theories to critically reflect on policy

To use their research skills to address a policy problems


Therefore, it includes a combination of lectures, teacher and student-led discussions and small-group work—both in class and virtual. 

The learning and teaching methods include:

Week 1-8: Lectures and seminar discussion

Week 9-10: Working in small groups to develop a behavioural intervention, an evaluation of an intervention and presentations and feedback (preparation for Assessment 2)


Week 11: Summary: Evidence for policy

Formative feedback from module convenor on each small-group draft presentation will occur during the Session 10.

Dedicated SurreyLearn page.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PSYM138

Other information

This module has a capped number and may not be available to ERASMUS and other international exchange students. Please check with the International Engagement Office email:



Reading List


Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Social Psychology MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2022/3 academic year.